Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vaetchanan/Nachamu: Consolation Prizes

It’s possible that Moshe Rabbeinu receives the ultimate consolation prize at the beginning of this weeks’ parsha.

According to Rashi in Vezos haBracha [34:1-3] , Moshe was zocheh to see all the way into the future, in addition to being granted the ability to see the entire Land from his mountaintop vantage point.

An analogous type of consolotation prize was offered around the time of shabbas nachamu in days past. I refer to the original “singles scene”, the dance of the women in white referred to in the last mishnah in Taanis and the Gemara at the end of the masechta [also appearing in Baba Basra], where everybody borrow each other’s clothing---which was all the same color. This may qualify as an early example of affirmative action in dating…

…because as the Gemara illustrates in great detail, the women proceeded to shatter whatever ceiling—glass or otherwise—was supposed to level the playing field. “The attractive ones: ‘A woman is aught but for beauty’…the meyuchasin: ‘A woman is aught but for children’…the ugly ones [or however one defines “mechuaros”, which, in no case, is a flattering description]: ‘Charm is false and beauty is a lie’”…

[Even the Gemara Kesuvos 17b which takes issue with lying about a kalah na’ah vehchasuda who isn’t so na’ah vechasuda takes issue with this AT THE WEDDING, but concludes there are salient reasons to lie at the wedding--but not before. Someone better be telling the truth.]

So we see, that, like the Upper West Side or the characterization thereof, there was always the possibility of “something better”—and it seems that the gemara was encouraging this attitude to a point [if not simply confusing the guys who were watching, which may have been another possibility].

What would this all mean for us singles and our scenes? Dating is messy. Always was. It seems as if, even within rather draconian Talmudically promulgated strictures of tsnius, there was ample leeway given to a] as a friends grandmother put it, “let go and let G-d”: the prospective can be trusted to handle things on their own and b] levels of attractiveness are a fact of life, as are the use of selling points that don’t involve out and out lying.

Too often the “shidduch system” set up to prevent unnecessary emotional obscuring of the “true goal” [e.g. that everyone must operate on the level of “Sheker ha-chen ve’evel hayofi”] loses sight of itself to the point that shadchanim can say things like “Bums need to get married too” or “You didn’t ask the right questions”. But R’ Chananya Wasserman has dealt with that at length. More to the point here, as I’ve described in previous posts about the subject, most of the time we can do a better job by ourselves.

Even if it means we wait to marry, even if it means we might not be “100% shomer” [gasp!] 100% of the time, even if it leads to the occasional ruffled feathers, even if we are trying to avoid “consolation prizes” and are looking for “the next best thing”.

The West Side is just fine.

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